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2023 Toyota bZ4X first look: Jumping back into the EV fray

2021 AutoMobility LA / LA Auto Show

The production 2023 Toyota bZ4X marks the introduction of the first long-range battery-electric vehicle from the largest automaker in the world. However, this isn’t Toyota’s first foray into EVs. From 1997 to 2003 and then again from 2012 to 2014, it built the RAV4 EV but those barely had 100 miles of range on a single charge. The bZ4X is the first of a new subbrand of electrified vehicles that will make up seven models. It is also the second car that came as a result of Toyota’s partnership with Subaru following the BRZ and GR 86 coupes.

Built on a dedicated EV platform dubbed e-TNGA, the 2023 Toyota bZ4X carried over unchanged from the thinly veiled concept car shown earlier this year at the 2021 Shanghai auto show. It features a grille-free face and thin LED headlights with body-colored inserts in them. The black body cladding carries over, too, giving the bZ4X a crossover-like look. Like most EVs, it has a wedge shape, only this time it’s more angular. In the rear, the crossover gets full-width LED taillights and on certain versions, a roof-mounted spoiler.

Like the exterior, the interior carried over from the concept car nearly intact. The new center stack features haptic feedback buttons and a large main touch screen housing Toyota’s new user interface that first debuted on the 2022 Tundra. The system supports over-the-air updates and cloud-based navigation data, the latter of which is available for a subscription fee. It is complemented by a digital gauge cluster in front of the driver. A digital key feature allows owners to lock, unlock, and start the bZ4X with a smartphone. They can also send them to other family members that way. To keep the cabin quiet, Toyota says it has employed soundproofing glass and additional sound deadening.

The bZ4X is the first Toyota to get the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 driver assistance suite. In addition to all of the usual collision prevention and driver assistance features, it now includes lowlight cyclist detection, daytime motorcyclist detection, and guard rail detection. An improved lane-keeping and centering function has also been added as part of the new suite. The new capabilities are due to the expansion of the millimeter-wave radar and the monocular camera’s detection range. It also improved the abilities of the other components contained within the suite.

You’ll be able to get the Toyota bZ4X in single- or dual-motor variants. The former has a 201-hp electric motor while the latter makes 214 hp between its two 80 kW motors. You get a larger 72.8-kWh battery in the dual-motor version versus the single-motor variant’s 71.4-kWh unit. They’re mounted under the passenger compartment to lower the crossover’s center of gravity. Toyota estimates that the single-motor bZ4X will be able to travel around 250 miles on a single charge. It didn’t release peak charging speeds but we’re suspecting it’s the same as the Japanese- spec model, which can DC charge at up to 150 kW.

Engineers focused on maximizing the bZ4X’s cruising range and energy management to ensure optimum performance in all weather conditions. In addition to maximizing aerodynamics and weight reduction, the crossover also gets a heat pump to cut energy use when the climate controls are active. Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are also available along with a front-seat radiant foot and leg heater, which is a first for Toyota.

The company boasts that the bZ4X’s battery has been developed with longevity in mind and is targeting a battery capacity retention of 90 percent after 10 years. For added safety, it also included a nonconductive coolant that runs through separated flow channels to maintain optimum battery temperatures. The housing for the battery pack has been designed to withstand collision from all angles thanks to a strong frame and a cross-bracing design. It has also been integrated within the floor of the body frame structure so that it’s further protected during collisions.

Toyota also included monitoring systems that can prevent and detect signs of battery failure. This includes a strict production process that eliminates battery component contamination and ensures durability, and redundant battery voltage, current, and temperature monitoring systems that can detect signs and occurrences of abnormal heating to prevent overheating. A high-resistance coolant circulation system is also being utilized to prevent short circuit fires if a leak occurs.

Working with Subaru on the bZ4X allowed Toyota to benefit from the smaller company’s expertise in safety and all-weather traction. The dual-motor version, which effectively gets AWD as standard equipment, now has X-Mode, which helps improve traction on loose pavement and slippery surfaces. Grip Control has also been added to further aid in low-traction situations.

The 2023 Toyota bZ4X goes on sale in the Spring of 2022. Pricing hasn’t been released yet but expect it to start near the $40,000 range, the same ballpark as its key competitors, which includes the Volkswagen ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach-E, and Hyundai Ioniq 5.

Written by Stefan Ogbac
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